When it comes to travelling by airplane we have to bear in mind so many details that we just cannot wait for the time our plane finally takes off. But what if the plane has delay and we are stuck on the airport for more than 3 hours? What if we are denied access to the flight due to an administrative error? What can we do in situations like these?
When we encounter problems like the above mentioned, we tend to panic and think about how we, the consumers are only small fishes standing against the big corporations, thus it is not worth claiming any damages since we don’t have a chance to win.
Luckily for the consumers, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union had enacted the Regulation No. 261/2004 (hereinafter referred to as: “Regulation”) which ensures the possibility of compensation and re-imbursement.
The main question remains of course: In which cases are the passengers entitled for re-imbursement, re-touring or damages?
There are some cases in which the delay is so long (3 hours or more) that according to the Airlines (such as in the case of Ryanair Ltd.) it can constitute as a basis for compensation because it is the same as the cancellation of the flight. In other cases the flights can be actually cancelled or the passenger is denied boarding the air carrier because of some administrative failure. In most cases administrative problems can occur when the passenger cannot be “identified”, meaning the name of the passenger is different on the boarding pass than on the ID or passport. This can happen due to the fact that the passenger indicates a name which he/she generally uses rather than the name which he/she legally has (e.g. maiden name – married name) or if the passenger has a title – usually the Dr. title in case of doctors, dentists, pharmacists or lawyers and if this title goes together which the maiden name, the different indication of the name can cause further problems.
In these cases the passenger is always entitled to claim damages pursuant to Article 7 of the Regulation, the sum of which is EUR 250 for flights of 1500 kilometres or less, EUR 400 for all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometres and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres and finally EUR 600 for all other flights which the two previous cases does not cover.
It is indispensable to note that passengers are always entitled for re-imbursement of their tickets (or usually in practice a part of the ticket’s price) but the right for re-imbursement does not exclude the right for compensation.
Pursuant to the rules set out in this Regulation passengers can only claim damages if they travel by an air carrier of a country that is under the scope of the Regulation. Since it is a legal act issued by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, if a passenger travels with e.g. Turkish Airlines or American Airlines, the above mentioned rules cannot be applicable.
To sum up, if we encounter obstacles due to which we cannot board the airplane on time – irrespective of the fact that it is a low-cost airplane like Wizzair or Ryanair or not (like Lufthansa or KLM) – we must bear in mind that we have possibilities through which we can claim damages as the Regulation sets out. Naturally, before we do anything, it is advised to review the Business Policy of the given airline and our national legal acts and submit a complaint first. Should the airline deny our complaint we must remember that the European Union had thought of us as consumers and had ensured that we shall not stay small fishes and through the Regulation had given us opportunity to successfully claim damages against the airline.
dr. Franczia Ágnes
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